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Media Publishers Doubling Down on Virtual Reality

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We are through the first week of the Digital Content NewFronts conference and media publishers are showing some pretty major commitments into virtual reality.

The two-week long annual event hosted in New York brings together presentations from brands, media and marketing agencies to spotlight their future plans for original programming content and innovative storytelling. So it should be no surprise that media publishers are courting top advertising dollars at this year’s event on the heels of VR making its way into the lives of consumers.

With the Oculus Rift launched rolling-out, HTC Vive and Gear VR shipping, Facebook and YouTube betting big on 360° video, many publishers are doubling down or kicking off additional investments into the immersive technology.

More New York Times VR

During day one of New Fronts, virtual reality definitely took center stage at the New York Times presentation. After kicking off the event with a live performance from musical duo Lion Babe, NYT executives and journalists discussed the future of visual storytelling and how VR is such a perfect new medium.

Touting their “most successful product launch in history” with the distribution of over a million Google Cardboard headsets and dedicated VR app, the NYT announced they will be expanding beyond the reach of their mobile app, and also head to several of the top VR platforms. The publisher additionally announced they will be launching new VR videos that will include recreations of famous Olympics stadiums, a glimpse at climate change in Antartica, as well as a new series placing the viewer in “relaxing environments.” The NYT will also supplement most of their interactive series content with VR experiences ranging in topics from the science of productivity to space exploration.

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Refinery29 Launches In-House VR Production Studio

Also during day one of NewFronts, we saw young female focused media publisher Refinery29 announce the launch of VR29 Studios, a VR and 360 studio within the Refinery29 video department. The new studio will be focused on mastering the technical and narrative craft of multidimensional production, while “creating opportunities for female creators in the burgeoning field.” Refinery29 has been testing and developing formats for the past year as we saw with their “Fashionably Bound” series on Milk VR. The dedicated team of eight will bring the Refinery29 content to life in new ways, providing audiences with more immersive and dynamic experiences, exploring topics such as music, fashion, theater, sports, and travel. The team will launch one VR/360° asset every week for the remainder of 2016 starting in June.

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Refinery29’s Fashionably Bound series from 2015.

AOL’s Live VR Programming Studio

Tuesday saw AOL announce the planned opening of a new 13,412-square-foot studio space in downtown Manhattan. The ground-floor studio will feature a street-facing main stage with seating available for a live audience. The studio will play host to AOL’s live interview event series, AOL Build, and will be equipped with cameras to shoot 360-degree video live.

In April, Verizon’s AOL bought RYOT – the Los Angeles based immersive media and VR content studio – to join The Huffington Post in not only enhancing global coverage of the media publisher with VR and 360-degree video content, but also increase the content capabilities of AOL’s branded content studio.

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AOL showing off content for their AutoBlog property.

Conde Nast’s VR Action-Adventure

Conde Nast, the publisher of titles like Vanity Fair and Vogue, gave a sneak peek of a previously announced six-episode VR series in development that is expected to launch sometime in September. The series titled “Invisible” is made in collaboration with VR company Jaunt and is an episodic action-adventure about a New York City family, the Ashlands, with superpowers passed down through generations.

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Hulu’s Reality Concerts

Hulu announced they will debut a virtual reality series letting users experience what it’s like to walk out on stage as the star of a huge concert. In partnership with Live Nation, the VR series is being developed for the Samsung Gear VR. Although no deals have been finalized, Live Nation stars on tour this summer include Beyoncé, Rihanna and Bryan Adams.

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Time Inc. and Next VR are Bringing LIFE to VR

On Thursday, NextVR and Time Inc. announced a partnership to develop immersive live and on-demand content for Time Inc.’s newly launched LIFE VR brand and to distribute the content on NextVR’s Platform. LIFE VR will showcase the world through the lens of virtual reality, offering immersive storytelling culled from Time Inc.’s 100 global brands—including TIME, People, Entertainment Weekly and Sports Illustrated.

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Shoutout to YouTube for featuring VRScout on stage at their massive conference. VR is finally here! (Photo Credit: Casey Neistat)

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About the Scout

Jonathan Nafarrete

Jonathan Nafarrete is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of VRScout.

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